In praise of Bobby Ryan

In praise of Bobby Ryan
"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable. I played with [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the league. Bobby's hands are right with those guys... He's a superstar in the making, it seems."
---Ryan Whitney, former Ducks defenseman

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ducks vs Pittsburgh Penguins

When the NHL schedule was released back during the summer, lots of Southern Californian hockey fans circled Tuesday, November 3rd. It would be the one time the defending 2009 Stanley Cup champions would play in Anaheim, an opportunity to see NHL notables such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bill Guerin, Jordan Staal, and Marc-Andre Fleury live on the ice and, for Duck fans, a special homecoming for ex-Ducks coach Dan Bylsma and winger/fan-favorite Chris Kunitz.

As the date drew near and the Ducks would appear to finally get their game going, November 3rd would also become a pivotal contest. With key pieces Malkin, Maxime Talbot, and Sergei Gonchar out of the Penguin lineup, our Ducks had a good chance of taking those two points. We fans knew a win would also give our boys a huge vote of confidence to start off the month.

The Pens are my #3 team and I was greatly looking forward to this game, although I was disappointed that Geno's injury would be keeping him off the ice.

The game definitely started off on a positive note. Corey Perry would continue his red-hot goal streak when Captain Scott Niedermayer smacked a puck from the point into the slot. Perry was Johnny-on-the-spot, hovering around his usual zone in front of the goal crease. He completed Scotty's pass, spun around, and whipped the puck past Fleury. Straight to the highlight reel with that one.

Ducks got a welcomed first goal of the game. However, the consequent penalty parade that took over during the first period, complete with a ridiculous goaltender interference call against my boy Bobby Ryan, would threaten to frustrate our boys.

I'm very happy with the way our Ducks were able to refocus their energy, killing off all four penalties and cutting off the ant trail to the sin bin.

Our defense was looking a bit improved as well, which isn't saying much considering how horrendous it has been, but which also isn't completely unremarkable because our blue line was without James Wisniewski. Guys had to up their ice time to eat all that Wiz would have played. I'm liking the way Nick Boynton has stepped up his game paired with Scotty. Although, I'm still waiting for Ryan Whitney to convince me he's worth losing Kuni over.

Yours truly was a Chris Kunitz fan and still haven't quite forgiven Bob Murray for that trade.

What bothers me is the way opponents camp out (a la Tomas Holmstrom) in front of our goaltender. Our defense needs to make things uncomfortable in front of our crease. Don't let guys sit there, screening our goalie, sniffing around for rebounds. We need to work on this, boys! We need to give our goaltenders a chance. Why do you think Jonas Hiller can't stop those slap shots from the point?

Perry would net a second (for a total of six goals in the last four games) after a powerful display from our Legion of Doom line. Bobby stole a puck away during a strong forecheck behind the Pens' goal line, passing it quickly to Getzlaf in the circle. Shooting the puck into traffic at the crease, Getzy was able to send it straight into Fleury's pads, where it would rebound to Perry's feet. After a moment of stick smashing, our number one line was aptly rewarded with another goal.

Start bringing hats to the games, kids, Perry's gonna net that hattie this season!

Offensively, our Ducks had a number of opportunities, and their shots on goal reflected their efforts. I think I'm finally starting to see our second line come together. Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, and Joffrey Lupul are starting to complete passes, making near successful plays on net. Granted we would have wanted this to happen back in October, it's nice to see it happen eventually!

Saku would get credit for the third Duck goal of the game, a slick number smashed in between Fleury and the post short-side. Selanne tangled with the puck and his defender behind the net, Saku would join the mess, pushing his defender out of the play with a well-timed check that knocked the puck free. Quick maneuvering would see Saku beating Fleury to that short-side, and a biscuit in the basket.

Despite playing an excellent game, our boys would fall victim to some very lucky bounces for the Penguins, including an open net bid for the Captain which was blocked by substitute goalie Crosby and a strong shot by Saku from a beautiful pass gift-wrapped by Selanne behind the net which magically found Fleury's glove. Absolute robbery! Nobody was more surprised than Fleury himself.

Our boys should be nothing but proud. They kept Crosby off the point board, they put together an amazing push and all but outplayed the defending Stanley Cup champions, they killed six of six penalties. They just ran out of time. Corey Perry is in the midst of an incredible goal streak, who knows how far he'll go? And Saku Koivu is finally making magic with Teemu Selanne. If our boys keep up the good work, they will be rewarded soon with a win. Perhaps next game against the Nashville Predators?

Let's see some more pictures!

Jonas Hiller played one of his better games between the pipes; the shots he couldn't stop were screened through heavy traffic.

Pascal Dupuis, who scored the Pens' game-winning goal

Jay McKee and Sidney "The Kid" Crosby

Brooks Orpik and Chris Kunitz

Ex-Duck, Martin Skoula

Michael Rupp, Craig Adams, Crosby, and Kris Letang

Christopher Bourque, Kunitz, and Jordan Staal

Marc-Andre Fleury and Staal

Todd Marchant and Crosby in the faceoff


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